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Finding the real Dory

The latest Pixar movie, Finding Dory, is now showing in cinemas. We visited our Aquarium to find out more about the real fish that inspired the character Dory.

Dory may be her name in the film, but the actual scientific name for this fish is Paracanthurus hepatus. It has various different common names around the world, but here at the Horniman we call it the regal tang.

Regal tangs are a species of Indo-Pacific surgeonfish and our fish were given to us by one of the UKs leading sustainable-caught livestock suppliers. This species lives in our Fijian reef display and we also have some behind-the-scenes where our Aquarium keepers do their research.

Here are three facts you might not know about the regal tang fish:

They are not forgetful:
It is unlikely that the regal tang has a bad short-term memory, like Dory does in the film. There are no studies which prove fish have a ‘three-second memory’ – that is just a popular myth.

They can be cutting:
The regal tang are a type of ‘surgeonfish’. All surgeonfish, as their name suggests, possess razor-sharp retractable blades near their tail. These are sometimes used during territorial disputes in the wild.

They are really useful:
The regal tang feed on algae. This is very helpful in the wild and in our Aquarium because the algae could otherwise overgrow and smother the corals it grows on. The algae can also look unsightly in our Aquarium, so the regal tang helps keep this at bay.

Regal tang help keep coral reefs healthy, but these magnificent places are under threat from more than just algae.

One square meter of coral reef contains the same number of species as a hectare of amazon rainforest. Coral is a vital part of this habitat because it provides food and shelter for many species.

However, climate change and warming sea levels are causing a process called ‘coral bleaching’ where the algae (which give the coral its colour) die. This is affecting all biodiversity from tiny fish through to sharks.

Find out more about how you can be like a regal tang and help the coral by supporting the vital Project Coral research in our Aquarium.

Share your pictures of our Regal tang and other Aquarium creatures using the hashtag #LivingHorniman.

Music and the State in Latin America - call for papers

Call for papers:

Music and the State in Latin America
Latin American Music Seminar – Saturday 19th November 2016

As part of its special Brazil focus this year, the Horniman will be hosting the next Latin American Music Seminar (LAMS) on 19th November. The Museum is home to an outstanding collection of musical instruments, which includes the new display of a set of samba drums - as played by the celebrated Brazilian bloco Monobloco. LAMS is a twice-yearly forum, hosted by the Institute of Latin American Studies and Institute of Musical Research, which usually consists of a day of 5 papers/presentations, followed by some form of live performance. It aims to bring together scholars, students, musicians and interested members of the public to share interest, knowledge, and critical perspectives on Latin American music. 

In response to the dissolution of Brazil’s Ministry of Culture in May 2016 (which was reinstated following major protests), this upcoming Latin American Music seminar will focus on the theme of Music and the State in Latin America. It is envisaged that the discussion of the Brazil situation will be complemented with examples from other parts of Latin America. Offers of papers which touch on music/state relations in any Latin American country are welcomed. Possible themes might include:

• State-level cultural policy making and organization – in relation to wider politics
• Culture Ministries etc. their structure, personnel, significance
• Statist centralisation (versus various forms of autonomy, such as regional, municipal, ethnic, religious, commercial) or active decentralisation policies as regards culture
• State attitudes and policy regarding cultural ownership and intellectual property
• State approaches to “The Expediency of Culture” (George Yúdice 2003), tourism etc.
• Heritage-making institutions, policies and processes (UNESCO, national, regional etc.)
• Left vs. Right approaches to cultural production(s) and management
• Neoliberalism, self-management, and horizontal versus vertically managed and controlled production relationships.

Please send a title and abstract of around 100 words to Dr Henry Stobart at Royal Holloway, University of London (h.stobart@rhul.ac.uk) by 1st September 2016. Do not hesitate to get in touch with Dr Stobart  if you wish to discuss suitability before preparing a formal proposal. Length of presentations will depend on the response to this call for papers.

We also welcome offers of live performance for the end of the day, especially related to the theme.

Co-organised by

Pokémon sighted at the Horniman

As if you needed another reason to explore the Museum or wander around our lush Gardens in the sun, you can now find a whole clutch of Pokemon, Pokestops galore and even two Gyms at the Horniman.

Stock up on your Pokeballs and potions at our Pokestops near:

We also have two Gyms which you can find by the Bandstand and the totem pole at the front of the Museum.

Remember if you are heading to the Horniman for Pokémon Go, stay safe. Explore the game with your friends, keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of the people around you and your surroundings, especially near the very busy London road at the front of the Museum.

Dinosaurs, crocodiles and sharks – oh my!

Our new Deputy Keeper of Natural History Emma-Louise Nicholls is obsessed with “big, toothy predators.” We spoke to her to find out how her obsession started and what she has discovered along the way…

What first got you interested in Natural History?

I have been fascinated with fossils since I was about five. My Uncle is really into science fiction and monster movies and we watched them together when I was growing up, so my love of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties was probably originally his influence. But it was something I was serious about from a young age. I grew up in a small village called Oving and set up the Oving Dinosaur Museum in my bedroom. I charged my family 20p per person to come in and anyone who came to the house was obliged to visit the Museum.

When I was about ten, I sent an Ammonite I had found to Tring Museum for identification and when they wrote back the envelope was addressed to ‘The Oving Dinosaur Museum, C/O Emma Nicholls’. That’s proof it was a real museum.

How did you get started in your field?

I started with an MSci in Geology at the University of Birmingham, as in my day, that was the degree with the most palaeontology in it. My Masters’ dissertation focused on sharks, which I thought was fantastic. Next I pursued an MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol studying fossil and modern crocodilians. Basically, I love big, toothy predators.

After that I embarked on a Palaeobiology PhD at University College London looking at 'Patterns in the Palaeoecology of Modern and Cretaceous Chondrichthyan Faunas'.


Essentially, I looked at patterns in cohabiting groups of sharks and rays.

It’s very hard to study prehistoric sharks and rays as their skeleton is completely cartilaginous meaning it doesn’t fossilise well, annoyingly, so most often palaeontologists only find their teeth. For my PhD I dug up and identified over 14,000 fossil teeth. Along with every known modern shark and ray, the fossil species were segregated into groups based on tooth type and predation technique, which was a novel approach in shark and ray ecological studies.

I then searched for patterns in cohabiting groups and not only confirmed that patterns do exist, but the results also showed that these patterns have remained constant over millions of years even when species within groups have gone extinct. This is something that no one had done before and I was really pleased with myself!

What bought you to the Horniman Museum and Gardens?

With a background like mine you can either go into academia or work in a museum, but it was an easy decision for me as I have wanted to work in a museum since the dawn of (my) time! While I was doing my various degrees I was always volunteering at at least one museum. I worked at museums such as Lapworth Museum of Geology, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Natural History Museum.

I’ve also worked abroad. I had the opportunity to work on a shark exhibition at the Florida Museum of Natural History in the States, and was a shark scientist on a field trip in Kuwait with the Shark Conservation Society. Both were absolutely fantastic.

In my professional life, I spent three years at the Grant Museum of Zoology as Curatorial Assistant before going on to the British Museum where I was Curator of Science and Nature for a brand new museum being built in the UAE called Zayed National Museum. I was responsible for all natural sciences content of the Museum, and was Lead Curator for three of the eight galleries. Building a brand new museum is an incredible opportunity and a curator’s dream!

However, when the Deputy Keeper of Natural History post opened up at the Horniman I jumped at the chance as it’s a museum I have always wanted to work at.

What are you looking forward to doing at the Horniman?

The job, the Museum and the collections are incredible.

I am working on collating all of our shark material across the different departments. It isn’t just palaeontology and the Natural History collections that have shark and ray specimens here, the Aquarium has some live ones and the Anthropology collections have material too, such a sword lined with shark teeth. Ouch.

I will be going through the Bennett collection, which is around 175,000 fossil specimens. The information we have about the collection has been developed by a few different sources over the years so I will have to do some Sherlock Holmes-style thinking to piece it all together and get it accessioned so that it can become available publicly.

I love coming across specimens in the collections that make me go WOW. Specimens of species that have a special meaning for me, such as the Triceratops rib I found in the Study Collection Centre, make me go wide-eyed and waggy-tailed. Ankylosaurus is my favourite dinosaur but Triceratops is a special dinosaur from my childhood.

In the future I would like to publish on the collections and become a leading authority in the currently poorly known Bennett and Wyatt fossil collections. I plan to use the Museum’s collections combined with social media to raise the public profile of sharks and make everyone love them.

Secretly I also dream of discovering a new species in the historic collections. Very rare… but it has happened!

Thanks Emma! You can follow Emma on Twitter @ColPercyFawcett.

Holly's top five objects

One of our Volunteers, Holly, picks her top five favourite objects from the African Worlds and Centenary Galleries.

‘Exciting changes are afoot at the Horniman. The African Worlds and Centenary galleries are going to be transformed into an exciting new World Gallery and Studio Space. I can’t wait to see the new displays and the thousands of extra objects that will go into them in 2018. Until then, here are my personal favourite objects from the African Worlds and Centenary Galleries:


The expression on this lion's face never fails to make me smile. It looks quizzical and humorously attentive with its protruding eyes, arched tail and large ears. Its tight grip on its prey, mouth pinched closed, makes me think it must be especially satisfied with what it has caught.


With its lolling tongue, large teeth and disconcerting lack of eyes, this double headed dog is an imposing creature, and that’s before you start counting the nails covering its body.

Nkisi were used to contain and summon spiritual forces during rituals designed to control, change or correct the world around you. They were used for sealing oaths, alleviating illness, protecting against sorcery and punishment of crimes. Each of the nails in this nkisi represents an instance this object was activated. Imagine what type of problem or request each nail represents!

The Benin Plaques

These commemorative plaques depict Benin’s Obas (rulers) and social elite. I love how the figures were skilfully cast in such a high relief, making them stand out far from the patterned backgrounds.

Removed from Benin’s royal palace as part of a punitive expedition by the British in 1897 and sold to museums around the world, the plaques challenged contemporary views of African culture when they were first brought to Europe. Today they remain challenging objects, instead reminding us how different museum collection practices used to be.

Hei Tiki

With its demanding eyes, tilted head, poised limbs and protruding tongue the hei tiki is an iconic symbol of New Zealand. You don't need to go to a museum or marae (Maori greeting area) to see pendants like these. Lots of people wear pounamu (greenstone) in a variety of designs, although most pendants are smaller than these fine examples.

In Maori culture greenstone is a taonga (treasure). Traditionally, greenstone could only be received as a gift and it would increase in mana (prestige) as it was passed from generation to generation.


With hollow eye sockets, reaching claws, sinewy tendons, emaciated torso and forbidding spikes along its spine, it’s certainly not the beautiful mythical creature I imagine when I think of mermaids.

Mesmerizingly grotesque, the merman is a good example of the craftsmanship required to make a convincing fake. While you logically know it’s not real, it's hard not to be captivated. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some sceptical viewers in the 19th century wanted to believe it was real. After all it would be a fascinating creature to discover… but big and scary enough that you probably won't want to meet it in real life.'

Big Butterfly Count 2016

This year we are taking some time to celebrate beautiful butterflies and marvellous moths.

Join us for our Big Wednesday event where you can take part in the Big Butterfly Count on the Nature Trail with entomologist Richard Jones, go on a story tour with Mr Horniman and do some butterfly-inspired art and craft.

What is the Big Butterfly Count I hear you ask? It is a nationwide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It runs from 15 July – 7 August, and during this time thousands of people across the UK will take count of butterflies and moths.

To take part you just need to spend 15 minutes counting butterflies and moths during bright and sunny weather. You can count during a walk, or sitting in one place – a perfect thing to do during a visit to the Horniman Gardens. You can even download a handy identification chart to help you spot different species.

Information about how to take part from the Big Butterfly Count:

How to count:

If you are counting from a fixed position, count the maximum number of each species you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as three, but if you only see one at a time then record it as one (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once . If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

How to send in your counts:

You can send in your sightings online at bigbutterflycount.org or by using the free Big Butterfly Count smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.
Remember – every count is useful, even if you don’t see any butterflies.
The Horniman staff will be taking part in the Big Butterfly Count and we will keep you updated on how many we see!

Tag us in your butterfly-counting pictures at the Horniman by using #Horniman on Instagram and Twitter.

Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition 2017

Entries are now open for the second Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition.

Competitors who are accepted will play our wonderful 1772 Kirckman harpsichord.


Wednesday 19 April 2017 using the 1772 Jacob Kirckman harpsichord in the Music Gallery. 

The Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition is supported through the generosity of John Broadwood & Sons Ltd.

Adjudicators: Sophie Yates & Robin Bigwood

Please note that there is no closing date for the competition. Instead, the competition is limited to 15 entrants on a first-come, first-served basis. After 15 applicants have submitted complete applications, we will operate a waiting list system. Incomplete entries will be rejected and the entry process will have to be started again, thus losing your place in the queue for the first 15 places. If you submit an incomplete entry, you are not guaranteed a place in the competition. As we were oversubscribed last year, we recommend early entry.

Please direct all questions about the competition to Festival Director Lorraine Liyanage: broadwoodcompetition@gmail.com

Each entrant is required to submit an online entry form.

Competition Rules:

1. Competitors must be aged 36 and under on the 18th of April 2017.
2. All entrants must attend an Introduction/Audition to the Instrument on 18th of April 2017 at the Horniman Museum. Permission to play the Kirckman harpsichord is at the sole discretion of the Museum and its decision is final.
3. Previous entrants may apply but the 1st place winner is ineligible to enter. Anyone who has previously auditioned on the Kirckman does not need to audition again for the competition but does need to submit a completed registration form.
The winner will receive £100 and prize-winning performances at the Horniman Museum & Gardens and other London venues to be confirmed.
Other Information:
All competitors will perform on a 1772 Kirckman harpsichord. [Kirckman Stops & Registraion]

Summer Raffle

Win some fantastic prizes in our Summer Raffle. 

Tickets are just £1, or 6 for £5, and are available at the Horniman until 4 September 2016. Look out for ticket sellers at all Festival of Brasil events or visit the Ticket Desk.

The draw will take place on Friday 9 September.

All proceeds help support the work of the Horniman Museum and Gardens (Charity Registration Number 802725).

The prizes are:

Aquarium Tour

Join a curator for a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of our much-loved aquarium.

The tour is for up to 5 visitors and available Monday – Friday. Prize must be taken up by 31 December 2016, dates subject to availability.
Find out more about the Aquarium.

Meet the Animals

An exclusive opportunity to meet the residents of our Animal Walk, including alpacas, goats, guinea pigs and chickens.

The tour is for up to 5 visitors and available Monday – Friday. Prize must be taken up by 31 December 2016, dates subject to availability.
Find out more about the Animal Walk.

Meal in the Café

Treat yourself with our delicious selection of hot and cold meals, amazing cakes and locally-sourced drinks.

Voucher for all food and drink up to £50. The voucher can be used any time during usual Café opening hours. Valid until 31 December 2016.
Find out more about the Café.

Tickets to Dinosaurs: Monster Families

Discover the world of dinosaurs and their young in our family-focused interactive exhibition. The winner will receive a free family ticket for two adults and two children, valid until 30 October 2016.
Find out more about Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

Horniman Family Membership

Enjoy a year of fantastic benefits including free and unlimited entry to the Aquarium and our temporary exhibitions, and a 10% discount in our Shop.
Find out more about Membership.

Plus, five more winners will receive one of our famous cuddly walrus toys!

Terms and Conditions

1. Closing date 04/09/2016.
2. Entry is via tickets purchased at the Horniman Museum and Gardens only. Entrants must provide details of their chosen contact method. Please keep the ticket as proof of purchase.
3. The prize winners will be chosen at random from all valid entries received by the closing date. The decision is final and non-negotiable.
4. The winner of each prize will be notified by their chosen contact method by 12/09/2016. The winners must claim the prize within two weeks or they will be considered forfeited and another draw will take place.
5. Winners may be asked to provide a photograph or to be photographed and interviewed to provide a quote about winning in order to help promote future fundraising.
6. Entrants must be over 16 and resident in UK.
7. No cash alternative.
8. Prizes are non-transferable.
9. The Horniman Museum and Gardens reserves the right to substitute the prizes with a prize of similar value at its own discretion.
10. The Horniman Museum & Gardens reserves the right to withdraw or amend the raffle as necessary due to circumstances outside its control.
11. By entering the raffle, all entrants will be deemed to have accepted and agreed to be bound by these rules.
12. Employees of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, their agencies and other companies directly involved in the running of the raffle are not permitted to enter.
13. The competition is run by the Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, London SE23 3PQ

We are committed to protecting your privacy in line with the Data Protection Act. The data you have supplied will be held securely. We will not share this information with any third party without your consent.

Thank you for supporting the Horniman.

Watching Brazilian films at the Horniman

This summer, as part of our Festival of Brasil, we collaborated with the Brazilian Embassy's Cineclub Brazil to screen two films in our Pavilion. The first is The Second Mother and the second is City of God.

Here, we chat to the Brazilian Embassy about why they picked these two films to represent Brazilian cinema. 

Why did you pick these two films for showing as part of the Brazil Summer Season at the Horniman?

The two titles showing this summer at the Horniman give a good notion of Brazilian contemporary cinema and its international recognition.

Brazilian cinema has had a crucial role in questioning the country’s social issues. Both City of God and The Second Mother illustrate contemporary Brazil, they also depict completely different environments, themes, social classes, locations and historical political moments in the country.

City of God is a violent, fast-paced film that narrates the story of a group of favela-dwellers in Rio, going from the 60’s to the 80’s. We see how the characters’ lives have been affected as consequences of their actions. The film provoked a debate of modern urban problems like violence, social discrepancy, and drug dealing. It showed a completely new side of the city of Rio de Janeiro that is usually described by its natural beauty and tourist attractions - Sugar loaf, Copacabana Beach and its Carnival.

Internationally, City of God was also embraced with enthusiasm by critics and the general public. In 2003, it was released in the UK, achieving the third highest box-office receipts among foreign productions in England. The title received nominations for best foreign film in both the American Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

The Second Mother is a touching tale about the relationship of a north-eastern nanny and a wealthy family in Sao Paulo. It explores the conflicts and social issues of modern life in a metropolitan city in Brazil (migration, working class conditions and regionalism) touched by references to fairy tales.

The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Special Jury Prize. It received critical praise in and outside Brazil and was selected as the Brazilian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. It won the Woman Film Critics Circle Awards in 2015. Director Anna Muylaert won the Panomara Prize at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival.

Why is Cinema important to Brazilian culture?

Films provide a window to different cultures, whether you have an interest in a specific country, in learning a language, or are just curious.

Regardless of the stories or styles of filmmaking, the medium contains a great deal of information about people and places. Someone across the Atlantic who might not have yet visited Brazil can easily learn something about the country and its culture by watching Brazilian films.

The Brazilian domestic audience has also increased lately, following box-office hits from national titles.

For instance, the response to City of God immediately after its release was unprecedented in Brazilian cinema. More than 130,000 people saw the movie on its first weekend, and it quickly became the fifth biggest box-office hit ever in national cinema.

Such figures are quite impressive if one considers that cinema is far from being a popular entertainment in Brazil, a country that is engulfed by the culture of the ‘telenovelas’. Traditionally, the high price of a ticket made cinema a recreation for the middle and upper classes in Brazil.

What would you like viewers to take away from these films?

Each film takes the audience on completely different emotional journeys. However, the fast-paced City of God, it’s quick-editing, and thriller-action elements such as violence overdose, police chasing and gun-shootings are similar to successful commercial blockbusters.

The Second Mother is an emotional journey that engages the audience with the hope for a happy, fairy-tale ending. There are universal themes in this: the criticism of judging others by their appearances or social class and ignoring their capacities; wishes that come true as long as you work hard for them.

We hope the The Second Mother and City of God will provide a little taste of Brazil – a country that was originally formed by a mix of cultures, social issues, regionalisms and beliefs – as well as being entertaining.

Watch The Second Mother on 13 July and City of God on 10 August as part of our Festival of Brasil

About the Art: João Marcos Rosa

Our new photography exhibition, Fauna Brazil, is now on display in Gallery Square as part of our Festival of Brasil

We chat to Brazilian photographer João Marcos Rosa about his life-long passion for wildlife photography. 

How did you get into wildlife photography?

I lived close to nature all through my childhood and my first contact with wildlife was when my father and grandfather took me on trips to the countryside.

My grandfather was an amateur photographer who kept lots of books. When I was 15 years old he gave me my first camera. It became my partner on the trips I took to all the wild places in my state. It also was a way to bring a new vision of unknown places back to my family and friends. Nature soon became my passion and object of study.

I wanted to tell the stories behind the photographs and so went University to study journalism. I also published my wildlife stories in newspapers.

My links with conservation projects happened naturally, as soon as I started to search for new stories to tell.

How do you set up your camera so you don’t scare the animals?

I work with researchers who know the animals’ behaviours for most of my projects so I can plan the best techniques to get the pictures I want.

Sometimes I use long telephoto lenses and in other cases wide angle lenses triggered by a remote control.

Do you have to wait a long time to get the perfect shot?

Yes. Photographing birds, especially raptors like the harpy eagle, I have waited for days to get some special shots.

The picture of the harpy eagle carrying the armadillo, which is in the exhibition, took me eight years to capture. Since starting the project in 2004 I have never had another opportunity like that.

As I say, you get luckier the more time you dedicate to your project.

What are your favourite animals to photograph?

I love to photograph giant otters. They are funny animals and very sociable. They live in large families and keep playing, fishing and swimming all day long.

The pictures I take of the otters show a vision of a pure happiness in the wildlife.

How did you decide which photos to include in this exhibition?

I have tried to consider the biodiversity of all the ecosystems in Brazil: Amazonia, Atlantic Rainforest, Caatinga, Cerrado, Pantanal and the Coast. So these images represent the diversity of Brazilian wildlife.

What would you like people to think about when looking at your photographs?

I would like people to feel the same happiness I experienced when watching those scenes.

I hope that after seeing the exhibition, people will be more open to think about the importance of wildlife conservation.

What does Brazil mean to you?

Brazil means happiness to me. It is the place I choose to live, raise my family and do most of my work.

Watch another interview with João Marcos Rosa and see more of his photography:

Fauna Brazil is curated by Alicia Bastos in association with Braziliarty

See Fauna Brazil in Gallery Square until 8 January 2017.

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